The attempt to celebrate the takeover of Crimea bordered on fascist satire.
Tens of thousands of people crammed into Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium Friday, where they were regaled with shamelessly militarized propaganda from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The massive rally was ostensibly marking the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, but it also unmistakably celebrated Russia’s ongoing, bloody invasion of that same country today.
“We know what we need to do, how to do it, and at what cost,” declared Putin, seemingly speaking from a special, isolated platform. He added that “we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans.” The rally comes as what was once seen as an easy conquest for one of the world’s strongest militaries now drags on into its third week of bloody combat, with increasing evidence of Russian forces having committed war crimes during their stymied push into Ukraine.
Flanked by the “Z” symbol that has become a Russian icon of victory during the Ukraine invasion, Putin struck an unapologetically fascistic note, proclaiming that “shoulder to shoulder, [Russians] help each other, support each other, and when needed they shield each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers.”
“Such unity we have not had for a long time,” he added, standing in front of banners proclaiming “for a world without Nazism” and “for our president.”
To add to the irony of an overtly totalitarian speech happening under the ludicrous banner of anti-fascism, the Russian state TV broadcast of Putin’s address was briefly interrupted for what the agency deemed a “server problem,” just as the president wrapped up his remarks by commemorating Fyodor Ushakov, an 18th- and 19th-century naval commander who was glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church and in 2005 became the patron saint of the country’s fleet of nuclear bombers.
Per Reuters, some of the estimated thousands of attendees — particularly those employed by the country’s massive Rosneft gas company — were overtly pressured to attend the rally.